I nearly always dream, and this is especially true shortly after shifting. It is almost as if my slight brush with death sends my mind into overdrive, and the dream I'm having now keeps with the pattern.

A large Victorian style house sits atop a hill, maybe sixty feet directly ahead of me. It is painted such a deep shade of purple, that in the dim light filtering through the cloud covered sky, I nearly mistake if for black. Although clearly ancient and uninhabited, no windows are broken, and when I finally reach the home, I am surprised that the steps up the porch do not creak under my weight.

With the confidence that only comes in dreams, I place my fingers on the brass doorknob and twist. The door swings open easily, and the only movement comes from dust, disturbed by the slight breeze now making its way inside. I close the door behind me, removing my shoes. This house demands a polite guest.

I do not bother to ask if anyone is home, because as is the way in dreams, I already know I am alone, yet welcome. My sock covered feet leave small, empty footprints in the blanket of dust on the hardwood floor behind me as I begin to explore. The air is heavy with age.

There walls are completely bare in every hallway, and within every room, almost as if the house owns itself. Perhaps it does. There are no dishes or pans in the kitchen, but curiously, there are both eating and cooking utensils. Every room other than the kitchen is set up in basically the same way, with a large oak desk in the center of the room, an equally large leather chair behind the desk, and floor to ceiling bookshelves along every wall.

What differentiates each room is the level of organization within. At one point, there must have been quite a few people living here, researching or keeping track of something. Some rooms are pristine, with every paper and book kept exactly in its place. I silently wonder how irritated their owners would be to find the room in such an unkempt state and debate dusting, but immediately brush the thought aside; the house does not want me to touch anything.

Still, there is one office, significantly more disheveled than the rest, which calls to me. I can feel the house reinforce its demands. Touch nothing it seems to say, although no words are actually spoken. In fact, I can tell the house would really prefer that I not go in this room at all.

My curiosity is peaked. Perhaps I am not such a polite guest after all.

A loud knock at my own very real door pulls me away from the mysterious Victorian dream house, and I open my eyes in my own bed. Harold is lying on my pillow, wrapped around my head as if he were a cat-hat. Vincent is in his usual corner, arms crossed and focused, but seemingly unalarmed. The knock comes again.

"One second!" I yell, and for the second time today, I pull my body out of bed. I hurriedly toss an oversized sweatshirt over the tank top I had been napping in, and head towards the door. Harold does not even leave my pillow, although Vincent moves into the living room so he can better see the door.

I peek through the eyehole, and see Richard on the other side, which is odd because although we are always friendly with each other, he has never come to visit my apartment. Nevertheless, I open the door without worry; if there was any danger, Vincent would have let me know.

"Hey Richard," I say with a smile. "Sorry for taking so long, I was just finishing up a nap."

"Oh, I'm sorry to wake you," he says, and he really does look genuinely sorry. "I just wanted to check on you. You seemed so out of sorts when you ran in this afternoon." I do my best to look baffled, as if I didn't lie earlier about forgetting something. He shrugs, his hair moving with the motion. "You weren't wearing any shoes."

I don't have an excuse that would make sense to him, so I sigh before responding. "I just got spooked by someone," I say, pleased that I'm able to tell him what is mostly the truth. "I ran, but lost my shoes."

Richard doesn't seem to take this as a great comfort. "Would you like some company? Are you hurt?"

"No, no, I'm fine, really. It was silly of me to run like I did." I am trying to reassure him, which seems odd, given my day so far, but what can I tell him? My stomach suddenly makes an incredibly unladylike sound, and I am reminded that I haven't eaten anything other than dry Cheerios and a few bites of sandwich that didn't stay down. "I was just about to heat up a frozen pizza," I say, and then, because I actually really would like some company, I add, "Would you like some?"

He laughs a little, the pleased chuckle of someone who's trying really hard to be friends and might just be making progress. "Sure," he says, and I invite him in, pleased when he removes his shoes at the door. It turns out Richard is a polite guest himself.

I am initially worried that this much time alone together will be awkward, given that our usual conversations take place while I am either headed in or out of the building, but surprisingly, conversation comes easily with Richard. Vincent has apparently decided that I am safe for now, and is nowhere to be seen, while Harold takes up space on Richard's lap for the entire thirty odd minutes it takes to pre-heat the oven and cook the pizza. I have long believed that if an animal likes a person, they must be okay, so with Harold finding a new friend in Richard, I am more at ease than I have been all day.

We make small talk, mostly about work until the timer beeps complete. As I remove the pizza from the oven, he casually asks if I'm seeing anyone. I do a terrible job of hiding a blush. It has been a long time since I had a man interested in me, mostly (or so I tell myself) because I am so constantly busy either working or looking for lost. "No, not right now," I finally manage to answer. "Are you?"

"Oh yeah, I'm engaged," he says, and I nearly drop the pan. "One of the new guys in the building has taken a fancy to you though, I think. He asked me the other day if you were seeing anyone, but I didn't know for sure." He gets a funny twinkle in his eye, kindly glossing over the fact that I clearly just thought he was the one who was interested. "I can't turn down a chance to play match maker, Vivian!"

I can't help but smile back him and set down the plates. Harold thoughtfully vacates Richard's lap so he can eat in peace, instead moving to one of the last remaining patches of sun in the living room. "Alright," I say, gathering my dignity. "Tell me about the guy."

"I think his name's Andrew," he says between bites. "Just moved here from Austin or something, but he doesn't have the accent. Works somewhere downtown, but I don't remember where, or what exactly he does." He shrugs. "But I doubt that's what you really want to know." He winks, and the twinkle is back.

I am smiling despite myself. I can't believe I'm having this conversation right now, and I'm shocked that I am so comfortable with him. "Yeah, yeah," I say, rolling my eyes dramatically so he knows he's being ridiculous, even if what he's said is the truth. "What's the guy look like?"

"Well," he says, drawing out the word before taking a gigantic bite and chewing it slowly. He is clearly having a good time, and honestly, so am I. It's nice to have a new friend. "He's tall. Taller than you, even with heels." He tilts his head to the side slightly, thinking about it. "Well, reasonable heels, anyway."

I sigh. When you're as tall as I am, anything above a "reasonable heel" is simply outlandish.

"He's got those green eyes you girls seem to drool all over," Richard continues. "Brown hair, almost black, but not quite, if you know what I mean. Kind of tan, like he spends a lot of time in the sun, although where he's finding that much sun around here is beyond me."

It occurs to me that the man Richard is describing sounds oddly similar to the man in my work plaza. The man who knew my name without me telling him, who said he had been watching me. "Richard," I start, keeping my voice level, "is his hair straight, or kind of curly?"

"Totally straight. Why, have you seen him already?" He's so excited by the fact that Andrew and I may have already met.

"Maybe. I met someone like that at lunch today before I came home, but he didn't exactly introduce himself."

Immediately, Richard sobers. "Is he who you were running from?"

"Oh, no, that was someone else. A woman, actually. Although if the guy I met at lunch is the same as this Andrew, he seriously needs to work on his people skills." I leave it at that, because I can't exactly comment about how it would also be really swell if he didn't cast spells on me.

Luckily, before Richard can ask what was wrong with the guy who might be Andrew, or about the woman who literally scared me out of my shoes, a voice comes through the radio on his hip. "Sorry Vivian," he says, rising to his feet. "Looks like the woman up on eight has locked herself out of her apartment again. Thanks for dinner."

"I appreciate the company," I say, surprised at how true it is. It turns out that Richard has a way of putting me at ease I don't often come across and I'm glad he stopped by.

I lock the door after he leaves, appreciating the very solid sounding click before turning my attention to my apartment. It's been a long time since I've given my apartment a thorough cleaning, and it's beginning to show.

With Richard gone, the silence of my apartment settles in, and I know I absolutely must find something to keep busy with of I will descend back into fear. I decide that now is as good a time as ever to clean every inch of my apartment.

By the time the sun is setting, my apartment has rarely been cleaner, and I am exhausted. Vincent returns as I let myself sprawl on the couch with Harold on my chest. The three of us watch the sunset, silent except for the steady purr of Harold, and I have rarely been more appreciative of how safe I currently feel.